It had been a dull and wet summer, and the weather matched the mood of the Pentax-wielding spectators who had come to bear witness to the end of an era. It was a Sunday in August, 1968. In Eastern Europe, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia had brutally curtailed the short-lived Prague Spring of liberal optimism. It was not the only movement to pass into history on that day. The nationalised British Railways had placed a ban on all mainline steam traffic. When the last train pulled into Liverpool, from Carlisle by way of Manchester, there were no more. Until today.
As it pulled out, to Kirkby Stephen, Garsdale, over the Ribblehead Viaduct to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Settle, it wrote a new chapter in the country’s railway history: the first steam train for half a century to haul a service on a scheduled main line. The rekindling of a love affair that had never quite died could not have been more appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Yet the Tornado was no relic of the original steam age, but a newly-built engine, constructed in Darlington over 14 years and completed in 2008 - the first such locomotive since British Railways’ Evening Star, in 1960. It was hauled into service to celebrate the reopening of the complete Settle-Carlisle line, which was blocked by a landslide following the 2015 floods.
Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Friends of Settle and Carlisle had arranged the outing, which was repeated in the other direction this afternoon, and will be re-staged tomorrow and Thursday. Northern’s regional director, Paul Barnfield, said it was “quite a spectacle”. “Valentine’s Day. The Settle-Carlisle Railway on a steam train. How much better does it get?” he mused. Mark Rand, from the Friends Of The Settle-Carlisle Line, waxed even more lyrical. “What price can you put on a day like this?” he said. “We might have to wait another 50 years for the next one.”
The Tornado’s driver, Tony Jones, said it had been a privilege to be at the helm. He normally drives goods trains on the same route. The 73-mile Settle-Carlisle line was opened in 1876 and survived attempts to close it as passenger numbers dwindled at the end of the last century. The current repair project has cost £23m and will be complete on March 31, when an even more famous engine, the restored Flying Scotsman, will turn out. British Rail’s original ban on steam trains on the main lines lasted only three years, but by the time it ended, the engines were already history. Until today they had been confined to heritage lines and chartered services.
The romance of steam returns to Britain's railways for Valentine's Day as a traditional locomotive hauls passengers on a scheduled main line service for the first time in half a century. The Peppercorn class A1 steam locomotive, Tornado, will pass over the 'Roof of England' on the famous Settle to Carlisle line, carrying hundreds of steam enthusiasts. Carving its way through spectacular snow-capped scenery through the rugged Eden Valley in Cumbria, across the majestic Ribblehead Viaduct and over the Yorkshire Dales, Tornado's journey will be the first for 50 years that a steam train has replaced regular train passenger services.
Members had to travel under their own "steam" to the Oxshott Bridge Club last night, but there was a big crowd of 14 + 1/2 Tables attending to compete in the Surrey SIMS and Round 5 of the Tilling Trophy, our major Pairs competition. The "Dorin Salver" Surrey Simultaneous Pairs this year was held for the benefit of The Brigitte Trust. This independent registered Charity was set up by Dorking resident Brigitte Watkins to support people at the end of life in their own homes, offering support and respite to their Carers and emotional support to the wider family too, and bereavement support if it is requested. Our donations at Oxshott resulted in a total of £116 being raised for The Brigitte Trust!! You can read all about the evening's play in the Report by clicking on the "Competitions" tab in the Menu to the left of this box, and again on the "Competitions News" tab in the sub-Menu that appears. Alternatively you can study the full Leaderboard and the individual Travellers by clicking on the "Latest Result" button at the top right of this page. If you want to check out the latest Standings in the Tilling Trophy, all the statistical pages have been updated to reflect all results including last night. just click on the "Competitions" tab and again on the "Tilling Trophy" tab in the sub-Menu to see.